I read with shock, horror, and disgust the recent columns from the Chronicle’s Chip Johnson, the Tribune’s Tammerlin Drummon and Byron Williams, and yesterday’s Chronicle editorial defending the Mayor’s nomination of Oakland’s largest Proposition 8 donor, Lorenzo Hoopes, to a new term on the Paramount Theatre Board of Directors.
It’s an interesting contrast to the basically non-existent media outrage when District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner blocked then-Mayor Jerry Brown’s appointment over Charles Hargrave to the Planning Commission because of his stated position on abortion. All four items basically boil down to the same argument – Hoopes shouldn’t be punished for his vote on Prop 8, and also, he’s old, so give the guy a break.
Give me a break. These four pieces attack the advocates lobbying against Hoopes’s appointment as “intolerant,” while fundamentally misrepresenting their arguments and dismissing their efforts as “hysterical,” “mean-spirited” “petty vengeance.”
It’s true, everyone has a Constitutional right to speech. But when one exercises that right, one also must accept that speech may come with consequences. And when one chooses to exercise that right by spending more money than I make in an entire year trying to take away rights from people, it’s possible that one of those consequences might be that those same people, in turn, just might decide that they no longer want to be represented by you.
You see, another thing that the aforementioned members of the media don’t appear to grasp is that, unlike political speech, there is no right to retain a seat on the Paramount Board, just because you happen to have been around for a long time. Those advocating for Hoopes’s re-appointment act like he’s being stripped of something he’s entitled to. What-EVER. Representing Oakland on a public body and making decisions about how public resources are run is a privilege, and it’s a privilege that should belong to people who represent the values of the community, not to people who campaign to institutionalize discrimination against its members.
Nobody is attempting to punish anyone for a vote. A vote is something you make in private. And nobody is trying to stifle free speech. What people are doing is using their own right of free speech to say very clearly that they don’t want to be represented by someone who played a significant role in writing discrimination specifically against them into the State Constitution. The only question is really whether the rest of this community thinks their rights are important enough to say they agree.
So, do we? Do our elected officials? Apparently, certain local columnists don’t. Frankly, I find that obscene. Jesus, people! We have a Constitution! It says that the law has to treat everyone the same! Nobody should be expected to “tolerate” being represented by someone who tries to take away their right to be treated equally. And I find it absolutely appalling to sit and read the local press attacking people for refusing to do so.
I applaud the equal rights activists leading the charge against Mr. Hoopes’s appointment. They aren’t stifling anyone else’s rights, they’re standing up for their own, and I sincerely hope they win. I think they will. After all, I sat and watched the Mayor speak about the importance of the battle for marriage equality a year and a half ago when he conducted the first gay weddings at City Hall. He spoke movingly and with deep passion about how this is a battle for civil rights just as important as the ones he fought many years ago, and a continuation of that work. If he meant any of the things he said, I know he will understand their position and see the necessity of this fight, regardless of how many local media outlets fail to.